Coun. Bill Yoachim says he wishes better bridge building between the City of Nanaimo and the Snuneymuxw First Nation could have taken place during his term as city councillor. NEWS BULLETIN file photo

Nanaimo city councillor Bill Yoachim to leave municipal politics

Second-highest vote getter in previous civic election will not seek re-election in October

Another sitting member of Nanaimo city council has decided not to seek re-election this coming fall.

Coun. Bill Yoachim, a first-term councillor, will not be running in the Oct. 20 municipal election. He said his decision to leave politics came down to spending more time with his family and focusing on his work with Kw’umut Lelum Child and Family Services.

“I sat with my partner, my family, young children and I decided to spend more time with them,” Yoachim said. “We are expanding in my office, so it is a balance of time and passion. I love the city and I wish everyone the best.”

Yoachim called his time on city council an a “experience” filled with ups and downs.

“I was able to support the main things that I campaigned on. Colliery Dams, keeping taxes in check and supporting the core services review,” he said. “Of course there have been other things that come and gone, but nevertheless my experience was ups and downs.”

Yoachim, a former Snuneymuxw councillor, was the second-highest vote getter in the 2014 civic election. He is considered to be the first person of Snuneymuxw descent to claim a city council seat.

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When he looks back at his time, Yoachim said he wishes he could have helped “built the bridge a little bit more solid” as far as the relationship between the First Nation and the city.

“I am very optimistic that the relationship will improve and that the relationship will be solid for years to come,” he said. “Chief Wyse is a champion, just as his late mother was.”

When he looks back at his time on council, Yoachim said his highlights include being able to resolve the issues around Colliery dams as well as purchase park land at Linley Valley. Before his term is up, he would like to see council move forward with a plastic bag ban.

Yoachim said the ongoing conflicts between councillors were “really a challenge” and a low point for him as a councillor, adding that he could have done better as a councillor in terms of using the his skills and experience.

“Whether I was a part of it or not, I am not sure. Everybody [has their] opinions, but nevertheless I wish I could have utilized the skill set around the First Nations and many of the connections I had. I felt I never got a chance to utilize what I could have.”

Last summer, the Snuneymuxw were returned a flag of theirs that flew at city hall. The SFN demanded the flag be returned to them as a result of workplace violence experienced by former Nanaimo chief administrative officer Tracy Samra.

Yoachim, who was acting mayor during the flag removal, said there is absolutely no question the relationship with between the city and First Nations has not improved since 2014.

“The First Nations relationship was not advanced under this term for numerous reasons. I am not going to single out any individuals or any particular incident, but I am pretty confident the relationship can go forward under the Snuneymuxw governance they have in place and I think the upcoming council will hopefully see the importance of that,” he said.

Before he leaves council, Yoachim said he would like to see councillors form a working group that can regularly sit down and have meaningful dialogue with the Snuneymuxw.

Yoachim’s advice to any member of a First Nation that gets elected to council for the first time is to get involved.

“Create a committee and be on a committee that works with the local First Nations to ensure that the relationship is going forward side by side. I had the opportunity to do that but I didn’t. I wish I did,” he said.

Current city councillors Sheryl Armstrong and Ian Thorpe have previously announced their intentions to seek re-election, while Diane Brennan has said she will retire at the end of the term.

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